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  • A Call for Empirical Research on Human Trafficking in Latin America

    September 23, 2013

    by Ana Defillo

    Human trafficking in Latin America has become a serious problem that can no longer be ignored. According to a 2012 estimate by the International Labour Organization (ILO), Latin America and the Caribbean account for the third largest number of forced laborers, at 1,800,000 victims. This number does not include trafficking for the removal of organs or for forced marriage/adoption

    Louise Shelley, a leading U.S. expert on transnational crime and terrorism, provides an explanation for this high number in her book Human Trafficking: A Global Perspective.  According to Shelley, the region’s sordid history of colonialism and slavery “has created a permanent underclass in many countries that is ripe for exploitation by traffickers.”  Furthermore, the region’s unstable cycles of military rule, democracy and populism has increased the vulnerability of its poor citizens.

    Latin America has a notorious reputation for its high rates of inequality. While human trafficking is a very complicated international and intersectional phenomenon, one of the biggest factors behind trafficking is a lack of economic opportunities. In a region where around 167 million people live in poverty—66 million in extreme poverty—there is plenty of room for its citizens to be exploited.  

    Almost as disheartening as Latin America’s human trafficking problem is the lack of empirical research to help prevent it. Why is there such a paucity of regional research on the topic, when seven of the top-10 countries of origin for documented human trafficking cases in the U.S are from Latin America and the Caribbean?

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    Tags: Latin America, human trafficking

  • Gendering Cuba’s Blogosphere

    June 28, 2013

    by Ana Defillo

    It’s not uncommon for the Castro regime to accuse dissidents of being CIA agents or puppets of the U.S. government. Viral media attacks on Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez are not unique. However, the manner in which they attack Sánchez and other female dissidents, compared to their male counterparts, does seem unique.                                                           

    Initially, the Cuban government didn’t pay much attention to Sánchez and her blogging. Not really understanding the medium, the government wrote her off as a non-threat because of her gender and ultimately gave Sánchez the space to become the international figure she is today.

    Once the regime had become aware of blogging’s influence, it initiated an online civil war between independent Cuban bloggers and the government. The government blocked all of the unauthorized blogs and began a defamation campaign against the independent bloggers—who are officially referred to as “cyber mercenaries” and enemies of the revolution. Cuba’s version of Wikipedia, EcuRed, describes Sánchez as Cibermercenaria y bloguera cubana next to a menacing-looking photo of her.      

    Numerous websites exist solely to insult and question Sánchez’s legitimacy as a renowned journalist, writer and blogger. These insults and accusations are mostly gender-based. Male bloggers’ accomplishments and awards are rarely questioned. Instead, they are labeled (if at all) with epithets associated with a dominant form of masculinity, such as “terrorist” and “traitor.” Meanwhile, the language used to attack Sánchez focuses mainly on her appearance and stereotypes associated with being female.

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    Tags: Cuba, Yoani Sanchez

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